Homeland Security Asks Airlines to Eliminate Baggage Fees

October 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Travel was pretty difficult for some this past summer, as the TSA struggled to clear long lines at the security checkpoints. Travelers faced waits as long as three hours, causing them to miss their flights. The ordeal was eventually sorted, and people were able to get to their destinations as usual.

But this problem could be avoided, said the TSA and a few Washington lawmakers, if the airlines would just get rid of their checked baggage fees.
The TSA Security lines at Denver International Airport
Jeh Johnson, the head of Homeland Security, and TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger asked the nation’s airlines to consider waiving or eliminating baggage fees in order to encourage more people to check bags and alleviate the security process clogged by travelers who only have carry-ons.

Not surprisingly, the airlines said no. They’ve had these fees in place since 2007, and it’s how they have been able to remain profitable. How can you do your part to keep the security line moving? Here are some simple, practical reminders to consider:

  • Apply for TSA PreCheck. Even if you only travel once a year, at $85 for five years’ certification, you’ll eliminate most of the hassle that comes with the regular TSA lines: you won’t have to take off your shoes or jacket, unpack your toiletries, or remove your laptop.
  • Make sure your toiletries are the standard 3.4 ounces and that the bag you carry them in is transparent and accessible, like a kitchen reclosable bag.
  • Wear slip-on shoes so you don’t hold up the line untying shoes or unzipping boots. If you can’t do this, loosen the laces or unzip the zipper so that you can ease your feet out quickly. Read more

Border Patrol Wants to Access Visitors’ Social Media

August 10, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Visitors entering the United States may be asked to provide US Customs and Border Protection with their social media account information. This would be a new question added to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and I-94W forms.

We’re not sure how we feel about that.

On the one hand, these forms already supply information about citizenship, residency, passport, and contact information. With this, it’s easy enough to get social media information. Just go to your favorite social network, and search for the person’s name.

Patch_of_the_United_States_Border_PatrolAccording to the Office of the Federal Register, a publication that lists proposed and final administrative regulations, this data would be used for “screening alien visitors for potential security risks to national security and determining admissibility to the United States.”
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Ways to Avoid Lines When You Travel

August 5, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Unless you’ve already been authorized for PreCheck, you’re not going to be able to avoid the TSA security lines. But there are things you can do when you’re getting ready to travel and things you can do once you get where you’re going that can help you avoid lines like a pro. Let us show you how.

TSA lines at LAX international terminal, Santa Monica, Los Angeles,If you’re going to spend the day at an amusement park, you don’t have to spend a lot of time in line. Disney and many other theme parks have systems in place that let you essentially reserve a place in line. One side note: some parks offer this as a free service, while others, like Six Flags, charge for it.

Take advantage of online booking. Museums and other attractions allow you to purchase your tickets before you arrive. You then print them or keep them in your smartphone, and bypass the line altogether. Some cities also offer an all-inclusive pass that includes admission to its major attractions, again saving you from doing nothing but waiting in line.

Use express checkout at your hotel. Because your credit card is on file as part of your check-in process, you’re good to go at all major hotels without stopping by the front desk, provided the bill you find inside your door is accurate. This may not always be the case at smaller boutique hotels.
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Five Myths about Private Jets

August 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

If money were no object, you’d probably travel via a private jet, right? It’s a dream of many weary business travelers — no lines, nobody leaning their seat back, better choice of reading materials.

Private jet once owned by Ayrton SennaWhile private jet travel may not be an option for many of us, a March 2016 story in USA Today shows us we don’t have to let these myths keep us from exploring private jet service as an option.

Myth #1: You need to be mega rich or a celebrity to fly in a private jet. Nope. Most private planes you see at airports are actually owned by charter services and are used primarily by business people. While having access to a limitless expense account would help, JetSuite.com offers what it calls “Suite Deals,” starting at $500. Granted, it’s still going to cost you significantly more than a commercial flight, but when time is of the essence, price becomes a relative issue.
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How to Fly Without an ID

July 13, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s about the biggest inconvenience you can experience when traveling: you arrive at the airport and realize you don’t have your ID. What do you do? For starters, don’t turn around and go home. You won’t make your flight, and may be hit with a ticket change fee.

Here’s what you can do instead.

TSA CheckpointFirst, seriously, don’t panic. It is possible to continue with your itinerary without an ID. Isn’t that good news? The bad news is it’s going to cost you some time, but no money.

Be prepared to provide a succinct summary of your predicament to TSA. You don’t have to hang your head or act embarrassed. This happens enough that they’re used to it, and as long as you are willing to submit yourself to a second layer of security, you’ll be fine. Whatever you do, don’t be cocky — you are in no position to demand anything — after all, you did forget your ID or lost it. You are at the mercy of the system and there is a procedure for this situation, so submit to it, be kind and be patient. The old saying, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part,” applies here.

Next, be prepared to answer all questions honestly and politely. TSA officers go through behavioral detection training, and while you may be stressed, you don’t have to be nervous. They’re just doing their job.
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TSA Hires Officers, Shifts Dog Teams to Shorten Lines

July 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

I consider myself a frequent business traveler, but even I was shocked when I descended the escalator to the security area at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago last month. The entire winding queue was full and an overflow area had been set up to accommodate more travelers. My first thought was, “I’m glad I got here early.”

TSA CheckpointThe line didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would, but it was still 45 minutes long, much longer than I like to stand in line.

Now that the summer travel season is in full swing, many people are experiencing firsthand what others have been talking about for months: long lines. TSA successfully petitioned Congress this spring to reverse its decision to cut 1,700 people from its workforce and has hired 800 new officers, but it’s still taking some time to get up to speed.
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Pending Queuemageddon Makes TSA PreCheck Worth The Price

June 8, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’re a leisure traveler, perhaps you’ve heard about the TSA PreCheck and thought it wasn’t enough of a value for you to plunk down $85 to get special clearance for five years. I guess that means you like standing in line. For a long, long time.

No? Hopefully you have comfortable shoes, because the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) estimates the summer travel season will cost travelers at least an hour in the security line.

TSA PreCheck signAt least.

Would you rather stand in line for an inestimable amount of time and potentially miss your flight or pay $85 and jump the line? If you’re like me, you’d like to jump the line.

Business travelers, still not convinced PreCheck is worth the money? Consider this: is your time worth $30 per hour? Take your total salary and divide it by 2000 working hours a year, and you’ll know how much you make an hour. If you make $60,000 per year, your time is worth $30 per hour.
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TSA Pleads with Congress for Overtime

June 6, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It was the recipe for a perfect storm. The security screening process at most major airports was already operating at capacity, and the summer travel season was just months away. In an attempt to anticipate the influx, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) campaigned to get 25 million travelers to sign up for its PreCheck program. But the campaign to enroll members in the program only netted nine million users, so Congress cut nearly 10 percent of TSA’s workforce: 4600 people.

Now summer is here and TSA is understaffed, so it pleaded with Congress to authorize overtime for its existing workers while it scrambles to hire and train 768 new officers. The reallocation of funds from one account to another, to the tune of $34 million dollars, was approved May 12. TSA had originally planned on completing its needed hiring by September, but the estimated eight percent increase in travelers anticipated between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day changed that.

TSA Bag CheckSince the first of the year, TSA has been advising travelers to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight in order to allow adequate time to navigate the security line. Many have not heeded this advice and a harbinger of what was to come was seen in March during Spring Break when nearly 7,000 travelers missed their flights due to long wait times.
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TSA Wants 25 million Travelers to choose Precheck and Global Entry

May 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

What’s the worst part of the travel experience? Take an informal poll and you’ll find “going through security” to be in the top three, if not number one. Since 9/11, Americans have developed strategies for removing their shoes, unloading their laptops, and shrinking their toiletries to three ounce travel sizes in order to streamline their security screening.

TSA Pre-Check signWhat if you could skip all that rigamarole and stroll through security without removing anything? You can, and The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) wants to tell you how. While many frequent business travelers are familiar with Precheck, TSA is on a campaign to get more travelers to sign up.

The process is relatively simple: you fill out a form online and schedule a brief, in-person interview at the airport where you present the required documentation (a passport, driver’s license, or birth certificate) and are fingerprinted. The $85 fee provides Precheck security clearance for five years.
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Passport Expiring? Better Get it Renewed, Fast!

April 25, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Procrastinators, beware! The State Department wants you to check your passport expiration and submit it now to avoid the expected flood of renewals of the 10-year document. They’re anticipating a surge in demand because 2006 was the first year the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect, requiring Americans flying to and from Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean to produce a passport for re-entry into the country.

A biometric US passport

A biometric US passport

There has also been an increase in renewal activity due to the implementation of the Real ID Act, which creates a more stringent set of standards for travelers using driver’s licenses and other identity cards to board a plane.

To clarify, the Department of Homeland Security has set a January 22, 2018 deadline for states to comply with the changes instituted by the Real ID Act. A passport will serve as a viable alternative to either forms of identification for those traveling after the deadline from non-compliant states.

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